Steve Blake handled plenty of frustration during weeklong absence from chickenpox
It took only a few sprints up and down to court to make Lakers guard Steve Blake quickly realize what remaining sidelined for the past week because of chickenpox did to his conditioning.
Still, it was good enough for the Lakers to expect he'll return to play Game 2 on Wednesday against the New Orleans Hornets after staying home the past week because of chickenpox,with Coach Phil Jackson saying, "He was right back on the level we want him to play." It also, of course, beats what Blake faced last week, making questions such as the following pretty insignificant: what he made of the Lakers' 109-100 loss Sunday to New Orleans in Game 1 ("I'd rather not get into it"), how he can help the team limit Hornets guard Chris Paul ("It's not point guard defense; it's always been team defense") and how many minutes he can play ("That's up to Coach"). There were more pressing concerns, such as how Blake contracted a disease that mostly afflicts children.
"I have no idea. It's not like I went up to someone and shook someone's hands and they had spots all over them," Blake said. "You just don't know how you get something like that."
That's what prompted Lakers officials to make sure everyone was vaccinated and took immunity tests to make sure no one else caught the disease. The Lakers had initially thought Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest and Andrew Bynum hadn't had the disease, though Bryant and Artest later told reporters they've had vaccinations, and immunity tests revealed no one else was infected. Still, that didn't stop some fans from publicly issuing meanspirited statements to the Twitter account of Blake's wife, Kristen, should other Lakers contract the disease. "I'm just relieved he is well and avoided all the serious complications that go along with adult chickenpox," Kristen Blake tweeted. "Praise God. :)"
There were other frustrations, with Blake saying the hardest part entailed not being able to touch his 8-month-old son because he's not vaccinated and minimizing contact with his other two sons, Nicholas and Jamison, for precautionary reasons. He rested plenty, took antibiotics and even had oatmeal baths, with the first two approaches aimed at increasing his energy level and the latter intended to alleviate his itching. And of course, there was basketball. His activity was solely limited to reviewing game tape that Jackson dropped off at his home, a gesture Blake said "shows how he cares about his players," but it surely didn't replace the actual experience of being on the court.
That itch to play still made Blake cautious about his return. Before Monday's practice he visited a doctor just to confirm that no effects remained from the illness and that it was no longer contagious. Now that that's no longer the case, Blake's ready to return even if the speed of the game currently feels overwhelming.
"It was tough, man," Blake said. "You're with the team the whole year and then as soon as the playoffs start, you have to be away from everybody and be by yourself and stuck in my room and can't even touch my kids for the most part. That was hard for me, that aspect. but I knew there was hope i'd be coming back at that some point."
-- Mark Medina
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